Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for July 2, 2023 – Proper 8

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5032 | Therefore…
Greg Williams

Have you ever noticed how many times the word “therefore” appears in the Bible? One rule of thumb that has been given to help understand a passage in scripture, is that when you see the word “therefore” you need to look to see what it is there for.

That’s a clever reminder that the author has previously told us something significant that will have implications for our lives. The “therefore” means that what follows will be the implications of what the author shared. As a silly example, if I told you that your house was on fire, I may choose to add, “Therefore, get out.” I hope I would not have to tell you that, but I think you get the point. Because your house is on fire, you will want to respond in a fitting way, like getting out of the house or calling the fire department.

The use of the word “therefore” reminds us that when God gives us a command or some instruction, it springs out of an important truth or promise. Sometimes the actual word “therefore” may not be written, but whenever you read a command or instruction, you don’t have to look far to see what the command or instruction is there for. It may be in the immediate passage before or it may be embedded in several chapters leading up to it.

In the book of Romans, we see an example where Paul has been talking about the reality of our union in Christ. On that basis, he then gives some implications of that wonderful truth with a “Therefore.”

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:12-14 (NRSV)

If we read that passage and never looked to see what the “Therefore” was there for, the words may come across as burdensome and even impossible. But, because Paul has been talking about our union in Christ, these commands are fitting implications to the wonderfully good news that we have been freed from the bondage of sin to receive and live in his righteousness.

The recurring “Therefore” in scripture is letting us know that the triune God is not in love with raw and arbitrary commands. Rather, he loves us. Everything he tells us flows from that love, and from his good purposes for us. In short, there is nothing God tells us to do that is not for our good or that we must do apart from him. That’s what the “therefores” are there for.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 13:1-6 • Genesis 22:1-14 • Romans 6:12-23 • Matthew 10:40-42

This week’s theme is implications of belonging to God. The call to worship Psalm is a prayer for deliverance from enemies that turns into a prayer of rejoicing because of God’s response. The Old Testament reading from Genesis recounts the story of Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son Isaac only to be interrupted by God’s provision. The epistolary text in Romans provides some detailed ethical implications of our union with Christ. In the Gospel reading from Matthew, hospitality and mercy extended to a disciple is, in effect, extended to Jesus himself.

The Reward of Receiving

Matthew 10:40-42 (ESV)

Our text today comes at the end of Matthew 10 making this the third Sunday in a row covering the instructions Jesus gives his disciples for mission. If you have been following the Matthew selections in the lectionary you would probably have noticed a theme emerge from Jesus’ instruction to the disciples. Jesus and his disciples are in union together. What Jesus does, the disciples do. What Jesus faces, the disciples can expect to face. The disciples are instructed to go out just as Jesus did, proclaiming the news of God’s kingdom while healing and casting out demons. Jesus sends the disciples out to do the same ministry he has been doing. In addition, Jesus prepares his disciples to face the same rejection and persecution he did. They should not expect a warm welcome everywhere they go and in fact they will encounter some people who will be outright hostile. They are being sent out “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus tells the disciples, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10:24). Jesus also prepares them to anticipate painful division within their most intimate relationships where loyalty to Jesus and his mission will be tested. But Jesus promises in Matthew 10:39, one verse before our chosen text today, that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In the end, the reward for being a follower of Christ is worth it.

That sets up the final few verses Matthew gives us in this section which will conclude Jesus’ instruction to his twelve disciples. After all the talk of persecution and division that will come to those on mission with Christ, ending on a positive note would be a good idea. So, Matthew includes Jesus’ words in these last three verses continuing the theme of the union of Jesus and his disciples, but on a positive note.

Before we look at the text more closely, you will notice one word repeated eight times in these three short verses. Receive. That seems to be the orientation of being a disciple, one who receives. That would make sense on the ground that Jesus’ ministry and mission are all an act of grace. Jesus is the Grace of God to us. We are not called to achieve something for Jesus that he does not accomplish himself. We are to receive God’s grace and participate in it. Part of that grace will be the calling to participate in ministry and mission with Jesus. So, even participating in ministry and mission becomes a way to receive more and more of Jesus. We come along and share in what he is doing, and by doing so we come to know the Lord a little more along the way. Jesus is more interested in us coming to know and trust him than he is in us accomplishing some tasks. That’s what Jesus and the Spirit are up to in our participation in ministry and mission. It’s a real participation in the very life and relationship within the Trinity. Like a mom or dad who takes the kids to work, not so much because the child will do the work, but  so they can spend time together, and the kids can come to know their parent a little more. That’s why we are called into ministry and mission.

On that basis, all disciples are included in the call to “go to work” with their Father in Jesus. For most of us that will not amount to vocational ministry or becoming a life-long missionary. Ministry and mission take place every day “as we go” into our neighborhoods, into our workplaces, into our schools, and yes, into our churches as well. We are always looking for opportunity to share with others what Jesus is sharing with us. And that may be a proclamation of the kingdom of God or an encouraging word. It may also entail some act of service, all in the name Jesus.

For most of us, the biggest mission field we will have will be our families. Perhaps this is why Jesus focuses primarily on the divisions that will come within families because of the gospel. Just a thought! But certainly, we will have daily opportunities to share the gospel in word and deed to our spouses, our children, our parents, siblings, and so on. Simply praying with your family will be one of the most powerful and effective ministries you will ever have. And reminding fellow family members of God’s goodness, his mercy and grace, during their times of struggle will serve as a missionary journey even if it just means crossing the border of another room. We often overlook all the little ways we share in what Jesus is sharing with others in our ordinary lives. Remember, we are in the season of Ordinary Time. It is in our “ordinary lives” that God’s extraordinary grace can be seen and shared. And, as we will see, there is great reward in doing so.

Let’s begin the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples:

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. (Matthew 10:40 ESV)

There’s that word “receive” dominating the opening verse. In order for receiving to take place, there must first be giving. In this verse, we see the giving comes first from the Father, then from the Son, and then in this context, from the Apostles. We might put it this way: The Father gives himself through the Son and the Son gives himself through the Apostles and their mission of proclamation which was giving to them by Jesus. So, it is a cycle of giving and receiving, a circle of grace. However we describe mission or being a disciple, it has everything to do with receiving from another and then giving to another, everything to do with a life full of grace. This pattern can be traced back to God’s original covenant with Abraham that says,

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3 ESV)

That’s what Jesus is instructing his disciples to do. To be a blessing. And the biggest blessing we can be to others is to give them the message of good news that the Father has blessed them by giving them his Son. In receiving the Father’s blessing, they too will become blessed to be a blessing.

Let’s take an important closer look at what we can observe from the first three words of this verse, “Whoever receives you…” The “you” here refers to the original twelve disciples, which Matthew designates at the beginning of this section as the Apostles (Matthew 10:2). And remember what the primary mission these original twelve disciples were sent out to do – proclaim the gospel in word and deed. And primarily in word where the deeds confirm the words. So, what does that mean for you and me today? The Apostles are dead and gone, but the words they proclaimed, which have been written down for us, are still with us.

So, as a present-day disciple, when we read “whoever receives you receives me,” we are to understand that Jesus is not received just because someone receives us directly. But he is received when we are participating in his kingdom work with him, or when we are sharing his word, as contained in the New Testament. In other words, we share the Living Word, Jesus, by sharing the written word which the Apostles were instructed to proclaim. So, that makes a huge distinction between Christian mission and other acts of charity. Our mission, as disciples of Jesus, will entail, even in our charitable service and outreach, some form of sharing the proclamation of good news that comes from the scriptures. This is what we share that is the true blessing the Father has given us by giving us his Son.

So, in a very real way, when we give others the written word, we are giving them Christ who has been given to us by the Father. That’s why the passage can say “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” That’s a lot of giving, but it is a very specific gift that we are giving. Namely, Jesus! That doesn’t mean we may not give other gifts. But it does mean that the best gift, the one gift that is truly a blessing for “all the families of the earth,” is the gift the Father gives the world in his Son Jesus Christ. The Father gives his best, and as disciples, we are called to do no less.

Let’s move on to some more language about receiving.

The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. (Matthew 10:41 ESV)

The blessing wrapped up in receiving the disciples of Jesus, meaning the apostolic word they share, is further explained by using three references – a prophet, a righteous person, and a little one. These three references are best understood as three references that all apply to what it means to be a disciple. We find the first two, prophet and righteous person, here in verse 41.

A prophet was someone called to speak God’s word to his people. They were often raised to call Israel back to righteousness by returning to the stipulations of God’s covenant with them. This is a fitting reference for a disciple in the context of this passage. The Apostles were to proclaim God’s good news of the kingdom of Jesus’ righteous reign. As disciples today, we too are like the prophets, receiving the words of God from the Apostles, written in the Bible, and proclaiming it to our world today. Closely tied to this proclamation is the response of righteousness. In other words, just speaking or hearing the words did not mean the words were received. The words must be obeyed. This would be the reference to “a righteous person.” So, it is also a fitting picture of a disciple, as disciples are not in name only. They do not just proclaim a word that they themselves do not keep. The good news for them is truly good news to orient their entire lives around. This of course does not mean disciples are perfect. In fact, we could say that true disciples are those who live a life of constant repentance, always turning again to the living Word they encounter in the written word and aligning their lives according to that word. That would be truly one who “receives” the word spoken to them. So, both the reference to a “prophet” and a “righteous person” serve to describe a little more what it means to be a disciple.

In addition to these two references, we are now introduced to a “reward” that comes with receiving these disciples. But we will look at the last verse before speaking to that.

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42 ESV)

In this verse, we are given Matthew’s third reference to round out what it means to be a disciple. This reference is designated as “little ones.” This designation comes up later in Matthew 18 where Jesus welcomes the little children. Here we see the similar wording, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me…” Jesus would also note that those who are like “little children” are considered the greatest in the kingdom. For a disciple to be likened to a “little one” is a reference to the childlike humility and self-effacing heart that we see in Jesus. Disciples are those who do not fight over matters concerning position, power, or prestige. They are not concerned about who is greatest in the kingdom, or even in the church for that matter. They resemble Jesus in that they are servants of the kingdom. They live in joyful submission as a response to the privilege of knowing the King. As such, disciples are most likely the ones who are in need of a “cup of cold water.” They are not the ones who play the games of the elites, getting rich and powerful by “lording over others.” They serve for the good of the kingdom, and in this world, as Jesus has told us, that will often mean suffering for the gospel. They are the ones in Matthew’s day that may be literally hungering and thirsting due to persecution for the faith in Jesus. On a metaphorical level, these are the ones in Jesus’ beatitudes who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” We can say here that disciples too need to be fed and watered with the gospel. When we disciples share the gospel with one another, reminding each other of who Jesus is and who we are in him, we are giving a “cup of cold water” to the little ones which we ourselves can identify with. In this way, every week as we gather for worship, we also gather to encourage one another with the gospel, to feed each other’s faith by pointing once again to Jesus. Fellowship is critical for the health and nourishment of disciples, or “little ones.” We must not underestimate the critical importance of gathering together to worship and witness, not only to the world but to one another.

Before we close, we should say something about that lingering word we have not addressed yet. Reward. The word appears three times, one for each of the descriptions of a disciple. It is clear that when one receives a disciple, he gets a reward. But there is no specific description of what this reward is. What do we do with that? The best way to read this is to read it descriptively and not prescriptively. Meaning that we are not hoping to get some reward in addition to what we are receiving from a disciple. What we receive from a disciple is the reward in and of itself. And that would make perfect sense when we are talking about Jesus being the gift that is given. This is what a disciple is sharing with the world. This is what the Father has given to us. There is no greater reward than Jesus himself. To receive Jesus is to enter into his kingdom reign of righteousness, knowing his Father in perfect communion in the Spirit. It is to be giving to others all that the Father gives to us in his Son Jesus by the Spirit. It would be nonsensical to want a reward for receiving the greatest gift ever given. Jesus is the reward, and once received, Matthew indicates that we will never lose it. That’s probably because once you receive Christ, you will only want more and more of him and his Father who sent him. Knowing Jesus will be the most rewarding existence imaginable.

In Step with the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W1

Video unavailable (video not checked).

July 2 — Proper 8 of Ordinary Time
Matthew 10:40-42, “Welcome Me”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on SpotifyGoogle Podcast, and Apple Podcast.

Program Transcript

In Step With the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W1

Anthony: Let me read the first pericope of the month. It’s Matthew 10:40 – 42. I’ll be reading from the New Revised Standard Version.

It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 8 in Ordinary Time, which falls on July 2.

 40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Gavin, two words stand out to me in this passage: welcome and reward. They show up repeatedly, and I imagine it’s easy to reduce our teaching down “to do this, and you will receive that,” sort of a quid pro quo religion, right? What should we make of the relationality of these two words and actions?

Gavin: Yeah, certainly when we read this passage of Scripture, those are two other words that really stand out. And it is easy to adopt that mindset or to take that approach when we’re seeking to preach on this passage of Scripture.

One of the things I would say that welcome is, of course, a response. Whenever we think of welcome, it’s not that we’re initiating but rather we’re responding to something that has already happened. And in the case of the examples we see in this scripture, of course, you have the prophet who’s turning up. You have the righteous person who has arrived. And so, the welcoming there is a response.

But I think if you look at the context of this scripture as a whole, and preceding passage in Matthew 10, one of the things that really strikes you is that Jesus has been sending out his disciples. And so, this passage, when we understand it within the context of a sending out of the disciples is really encouragement for those of us who participate in sharing the good news. Because whenever we go out into the world to share the good news, I think it’s normal to have a fear about how people will receive us, how people will respond. And really what Jesus is saying in this passage is he’s encouraging us about how much God values our work and what we are doing in this.

It is really demonstrating the love that God has for his disciples. If you were to welcome a prophet, in the name of a prophet and you gave him welcome, then prophet’s reward is, he would share his insight. He would share what he came to say. Likewise, if a righteous person turns up and you welcome a righteous person, a righteous person will obviously respond positively to your welcome and you’ll receive a reward.

And so, the same is true when we go out to share the gospel message—that those who respond to the gospel message, God recognizes how they treat the disciples who go out and share the good news. And this is encouraging for us.

But I think this is really the kind focus of this passage and redefines how we think about welcome and reward. Because really this is encouraging us that when we go out and share the good news God blesses those who welcome the good news. We can take encouragement from that fact as we go out and share the gospel.

Anthony: Yeah, I appreciate that perspective because it frames reward in terms of the here and now.

We talk about living in the inaugurated kingdom of God, the already, but not yet. And sometimes we can think of reward as the not yet. That’s something to come. But Jesus says that when we welcome someone, we welcome him. And isn’t that the reward in the here and now, that we experience something of Christ’s presence?

Jesus referred to little ones and I’ve heard a lot of sermons that sometimes make me a little cringed when I hear who those little ones actually are. What say you and what is a Christ-like response to Jesus’ words?

Gavin: I think the word “little one,” certainly if you read in the commentaries, you can see a lot of debate about who is being referred to.

And I think in many ways, it’s referring to those who are sometimes held in the least estimation by society. I think sadly, sometimes it’s even talking about those held in the least estimation by the church. Sadly, even in the church, there are people who aren’t always valued in the way that they should.

And I think this passage challenges us in how we look at others and how we respond to others in their faith. It’s not a judgment on people’s faith. Quite the contrary. I think what it’s doing is it’s challenging us in how we respond to people—even the people that aren’t held in high estimation by others around them.

And one of the things that’s a kind of standout is I think—John Calvin, when he was speaking on this verse in his commentary, he talks about how if you actually think about what is said in this verse: whoever gives even a cup of cold water. Really a cup of cold water is the very kind of “meanest office of kindness”—that’s how Calvin refers to it—that you can offer to somebody. You’re not even boiling the water to make a cup of tea. You’re not cooking anything, really. You’re just giving them the very basics that they need.

But even if those very basics are given, God doesn’t forget even the smallest of kindness that are shown to what would seemingly be, by society and others, as the very least of his disciples. And so really this is, I think, quite encouraging for us because I think for many of us, when we engage, we don’t necessarily feel that we are these bastions of the faith that go out there.

Often, we find and have a personal view of ourselves that’s a lot more modest as Christians. And this verse is just encouraging us that God doesn’t overlook even the smallest of kindnesses that is done to those who are his disciples, those who choose to follow Jesus Christ.

I think there’s a number of challenges for us, a number of ways that it encourages us to have a Christ-like response to Jesus’ word, but really it makes us consider our views of other people, how we view them, and how we respond to them as well.

Anthony: That’s well said. And I think one of the things that’s helped me as I reflect on this particular scripture through the years is to recognize that sometimes I’m the little one.

It is a joy to give the basics, as you said Calvin referred, to someone in need, but sometimes I’m the one in need. And I think that gives us a perspective of humility, even as we go out to serve others. Thank you for that.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Have you ever heard of the rule of thumb mentioned in the video about what to do when you see the word “therefore” in a scripture? What was the rule Greg shared in the video?
  • How does knowing every command in scripture is connected to an important truth or promise change how you read these commands in scripture?
  • What do you think of the claim from the video that there is nothing God tells us to do that is not for our good or that we must do apart from him?

From the Sermon

  • According to the sermon, how is participating in ministry and mission a way of receiving more and more of Jesus?
  • Discuss the statement regarding ministry and mission from the sermon: “Jesus is more interested in us coming to know and trust him than he is in us accomplishing some tasks.”
  • What did the sermon say was the biggest blessing we can give another?
  • Discuss what mission and ministry may look like in your context. Who would be the ones you are sent to? In what ways can you share the gospel with them? Consider family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and so on.
  • Discuss the three references, “prophet”, “righteous person”, and “little ones” and how each contributes to what it means to be a disciple.
  • According to the sermon, what part does the Bible play in mission?
  • Discuss the concept of “reward” as it was presented in the sermon. What is the reward of receiving from a disciple of the Lord?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy